High school graduates encouraged to celebrate milestone safely | ParkRecord.com

High school graduates encouraged to celebrate milestone safely

Law enforcement officials, school urge students to avoid using alcohol at parties

Graduates of the Class of 2016 celebrate their milestone at the annual Grad Night celebration last year. The Park City High Schools Parent-Teacher-Student Organization hosts the event in an effort to discourage underage parties.

As students at Summit County's three area high schools prepare to celebrate graduation beginning this week, law enforcement and school district officials are urging them to mark the milestone safely and avoid using alcohol or drugs at parties.

With hundreds of students set to graduate from the Park City, North and South Summit high schools, Lt. Andrew Wright, of the Sheriff's Office, said "there is always a concern if students get together to celebrate their graduation it will involve alcohol and any other illegal substance."

"We encourage them to celebrate, but we also encourage them to stay away from alcohol and/or drugs because we know there are bad things that can happen like someone getting behind the wheel and driving when they shouldn't be or someone overdosing or getting alcohol poisoning," Wright said.

Law enforcement officials are typically on high alert this time of year and watching for signs that may indicate an alcohol-or drug-fueled graduation party is planned, Wright said. He added, "We do our regular alcohol and tobacco checks to make sure that it is not allowed to get in the hands of our youth."

In 2013, the Sheriff's Office came under fire for how it handled an underage party, believed to be a graduation party, which resulted in 16 arrests and 19 juvenile referrals. Wright said the Sheriff's Office has "had a change" since then and only aims to ensure the safety of those attending these parties.

"We are not going out there looking for an opportunity to cite and refer children to juvenile court," Wright said. "With that said, it doesn't mean we will turn a blind eye. But children are our top priority and we take great responsibility in providing them safety."

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Wright said if they are notified and deputies respond to an underage party involving alcohol, they will first make contact with the homeowner to make them aware of the situation before deputies begin contacting parents.

"The deputy will make every effort to contact a parent of a juvenile and have their parents come pick them up," Wright said. "We will leave it to the parents to take responsibility of their children and leave it up to them to drive home the point that this is not safe what they are doing. The deputies have full discretion and we truly trust that they will make good decisions on how to handle the given situation."

However, Wright reiterated, if adults, including adult minors who are older than 18 and younger than 21, are present and supplying alcohol, they will likely face criminal charges.

"But more importantly because they are 18, they could be held responsible for every single student in attendance or in possession of alcohol whether or not they intend to take the responsibility, it falls on their shoulders," Wright said. "They technically could be criminally charged for every student under the age of 18 who is consuming alcohol."

Wright said most of the information the Sheriff's Office receives about underage parties comes from a neighbor or other concerned third party. Wright encouraged anyone with information about an upcoming party to contact the Sheriff's Office. He said reports can also be made anonymously and online.

Molly Miller, community relations specialist with the Park City School District, said in an email to The Park Record Park City High School's Parent-Teacher-Student Organization will host its annual Grad Night celebration in an effort to discourage underage parties. Miller said the party has had a more than 80 percent attendance rate.

No outside guests are allowed and students are given a breathalyzer test when they arrive, Miller said.

"The party is safe — and will be kept drug- and alcohol-free. The Park City School District wants every single student to be safe — especially when celebrating the terrific achievement of graduation!" Miller wrote.

To report any concerns, contact the Sheriff's Office's non-emergency line at 435-615-3600. Tips may also be submitted online at http://summitcountysheriff.org/.

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